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  1. #1
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    Heritage - When To Drop The Hyphen?

    At what point in a genealogical lineup should people drop the hyphen? i.e. at what point are you no longer, say, Japanese-Canadian or Irish-American, but simply Canadian or American? Can you drop the hyphen as a first or second generation or is that the privilege of the third and subsequent generations only? What does it take to drop the hyphen?

    I ask as someone of mixed generational heritage who has never been hyphenated.
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  2. #2
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    Re: Heritage - When To Drop The Hyphen?

    I'd say probably once the physical characteristics labeling you as such are diluted enough as to be unnoticeable. This is probably why the two most prominently used examples are Asian-American and African-American, as their physical characteristics are quite distinctive, and as such persist through many generations. Most European ethnicities don't end up with a hyphen because they generally look very much like the rest of the white populace, and thus their heritage goes unnoticed.
    "Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools talk because they have to say something."-Plato

  3. #3
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    Re: Heritage - When To Drop The Hyphen?

    Quote Originally Posted by JOHN
    Most European ethnicities don't end up with a hyphen because they generally look very much like the rest of the white populace, and thus their heritage goes unnoticed.
    Are you saying that all white people look to the same to you?
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    Re: Heritage - When To Drop The Hyphen?

    I see no practical reason or need for describing oneself as an "African-American" or anything with a hyphen, unless one is actually a citizen of more than one country. Even then, one would be more accurate to call oneself a "Kenyan-American" or whatever specific nation. It only serves to reinforce a culture of race conflict and reverse discrimination. Further, the term itself of "African-American" is not necessarily an indicator of race. I once had a good friend who was a white South African. We had a member here who was the same, Aspo. What does a black guy from Atlanta, whose ancestors have lived there for 200 years, have to identify him with Africa? No more than I have to identify me with Ireland, and my great-grandfather came from there.

  5. #5
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    Re: Heritage - When To Drop The Hyphen?

    Probably after the first generation, it doesn't make much sense. I'm sure it gets a bit unwieldy at some point, say if an African-American marries a German-Canadian, that doesn't make their children African-German-Canadian-American does it?

  6. #6
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    Re: Heritage - When To Drop The Hyphen?

    Why hyphen to begin with? My Great Grandfather was first generation "German-American" and preached in his earlier years in German. I have a last name so obviously German that it always gets asked what my ancestry is.

    Never once have I ever heard my Great Grandfather call himself "German-American."

    Then consider how much this distorts the reality of our actual heritage. To give an example, the average African-American family has been in the US longer than the average white American family. Furthermore, most African-Americans have a significant amount of European ancestry (~22 %), significant enough that in genome-wide comparisons, its evident.

    http://genomebiology.com/content/10/12/r141

    These results are consistent with historic mating patterns among African Americans that are largely uncorrelated to African ancestral origins, and they cast doubt on the general utility of mtDNA or Y-chromosome markers alone to delineate the full African ancestry of African Americans. Our results also indicate that the genetic architecture of African Americans is distinct from that of Africans, and that the greatest source of potential genetic stratification bias in case-control studies of African Americans derives from the proportion of European ancestry.

    So to me this idea of hyphenating you're nationality doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Unless you are actually first generation, having been born in that culture, there is no point to hyphen.
    Last edited by chadn737; March 12th, 2012 at 05:41 PM.

  7. #7
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    Re: Heritage - When To Drop The Hyphen?

    I am a third gen American and cannot recall my parents nor grandparents ever using the hyphen to describe heritage. It seems divisive. I get why black folks might do it. Those who feel a connection to the slave era may do it as a form of protest or rebellion. I get this, but it should make one pause to ponder at what point should blacks drop the victim label and join the nation as full Americans. Isn't that really what the hyphen is all about? A declaration of victimhood or protest? Mexicans do it to imply they have claim to this land. You typically don't see modern Irish do this, but early on, when they were ostracized (even here in America), they clung to the hyphen. Jews typically didn't, but then the hyphen would be a little too much like wearing the Star of David on one's clothes so there was a natural inclination to blend in. So, each culture needs to figure it out in its own time. I do believe the blacks and Mexicans have clung onto their hyphens for too long. Let it go. Go back to your pre-hyphen lands or drop the prefix and the hyphen. Got off the fence, so to speak. Stop being political fodder and stop letting your old culture marginalize your political power. That's my opinion, but I could be wrong.
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    Re: Heritage - When To Drop The Hyphen?

    Quote Originally Posted by chadn737 View Post
    I have a last name so obviously German that it always gets asked what my ancestry is.
    If it is "so obviously German"...why do people ask what it is?
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  9. #9
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    Re: Heritage - When To Drop The Hyphen?

    Quote Originally Posted by Apokalupsis View Post
    If it is "so obviously German"...why do people ask what it is?

    Well the question is typically phrased "Is that German?"

  10. #10
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    Re: Heritage - When To Drop The Hyphen?

    Quote Originally Posted by MindTrap028 View Post
    Are you saying that all white people look to the same to you?
    Ha, sorry for responding a week late to your post!

    I'm not saying that all white people look the same, as they obviously do not. Rather, I am saying that after a couple generations in America it is generally difficult to pinpoint the ethnicity of anyone of European descent based solely upon their looks.
    "Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools talk because they have to say something."-Plato

  11. #11
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    Re: Heritage - When To Drop The Hyphen?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ibelsd View Post
    I am a third gen American and cannot recall my parents nor grandparents ever using the hyphen to describe heritage. It seems divisive. I get why black folks might do it. Those who feel a connection to the slave era may do it as a form of protest or rebellion. I get this, but it should make one pause to ponder at what point should blacks drop the victim label and join the nation as full Americans. Isn't that really what the hyphen is all about? A declaration of victimhood or protest? Mexicans do it to imply they have claim to this land. You typically don't see modern Irish do this, but early on, when they were ostracized (even here in America), they clung to the hyphen. Jews typically didn't, but then the hyphen would be a little too much like wearing the Star of David on one's clothes so there was a natural inclination to blend in. So, each culture needs to figure it out in its own time. I do believe the blacks and Mexicans have clung onto their hyphens for too long. Let it go. Go back to your pre-hyphen lands or drop the prefix and the hyphen. Got off the fence, so to speak. Stop being political fodder and stop letting your old culture marginalize your political power. That's my opinion, but I could be wrong.
    I think you're wrong in the sense that you're not getting the reason why people need to distinguish themselves. It's not that they're not full Americans but they have a distinct cultural heritage (i.e a sub-culture) that is different from others.

    If I were Chinese-American, it means that I have influences that are distinctly Chinese that an Italian-American would not have. For exmaple, there's a shared culture of food (pizza, hamburgers) but both cultures have their own culinary heritage. If you didn't have the terms, how would you distinguish between these two sub-cultures? What would you call them?

    America is a 'melting-pot' of different people, not a stew of similar people with slight differences.

  12. #12
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    Re: Heritage - When To Drop The Hyphen?

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnLocke View Post
    Ha, sorry for responding a week late to your post!

    I'm not saying that all white people look the same, as they obviously do not. Rather, I am saying that after a couple generations in America it is generally difficult to pinpoint the ethnicity of anyone of European descent based solely upon their looks.
    Lets think about this comment for just one moment. Europe is a continent half the size of Africa with a fraction of the tribes, ethnicities, and cultures. Yet we are essentially taught to treat every Black American as if theirs is a monolithic and singular culture and ancestry.

    This is yet one more of the irregularities of American racial politics that makes no sense at all.

  13. #13
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    Re: Heritage - When To Drop The Hyphen?

    Quote Originally Posted by chadn737 View Post
    Lets think about this comment for just one moment. Europe is a continent half the size of Africa with a fraction of the tribes, ethnicities, and cultures. Yet we are essentially taught to treat every Black American as if theirs is a monolithic and singular culture and ancestry.

    This is yet one more of the irregularities of American racial politics that makes no sense at all.
    While I disagree with most classifications based solely on race, I don't think it's a mystery why institutions are pressured to treaty every Black American as belonging to a single culture. Blacks in the United States have a history of being regarded as one single, homogenous group. It has its roots in colonial times when Black slaves were exported out of Africa in the slave trade. According to the slave traders, there was no distinction between Blacks from east Africa, west Africa, central Africa, or southern Africa. It was their skin colour that was regarded as inferior, not the tribe they belonged to or the exact location they resided in Africa. Their treatment in subsequent years after the U.S. Civil War perhaps explains why they continue to be regarded as a homogenous and singular group even though many are disconnected from their ancestral history of slavery.

    Blacks were regarded as one single, monolithic culture in colonial times. The irony is that they are usually still conceived of this way by affirmative action proponents who wish to undue or correct historical injustices despite retaining the racial classifications. But that's another issue.
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  14. #14
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    Re: Heritage - When To Drop The Hyphen?

    Quote Originally Posted by KING
    While I disagree with most classifications based solely on race, I don't think it's a mystery why institutions are pressured to treaty every Black American as belonging to a single culture. Blacks in the United States have a history of being regarded as one single, homogenous group. It has its roots in colonial times when Black slaves were exported out of Africa in the slave trade. According to the slave traders, there was no distinction between Blacks from east Africa, west Africa, central Africa, or southern Africa. It was their skin colour that was regarded as inferior, not the tribe they belonged to or the exact location they resided in Africa. Their treatment in subsequent years after the U.S. Civil War perhaps explains why they continue to be regarded as a homogenous and singular group even though many are disconnected from their ancestral history of slavery.

    Blacks were regarded as one single, monolithic culture in colonial times. The irony is that they are usually still conceived of this way by affirmative action proponents who wish to undue or correct historical injustices despite retaining the racial classifications. But that's another issue.
    Doesn't that then make continuing that general grouping... racist?
    Meaning that calling someone 'African-american" is the most racist form of hyphenation?
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  15. #15
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    Re: Heritage - When To Drop The Hyphen?

    Quote Originally Posted by SharmaK View Post
    I think you're wrong in the sense that you're not getting the reason why people need to distinguish themselves. It's not that they're not full Americans but they have a distinct cultural heritage (i.e a sub-culture) that is different from others.

    If I were Chinese-American, it means that I have influences that are distinctly Chinese that an Italian-American would not have. For exmaple, there's a shared culture of food (pizza, hamburgers) but both cultures have their own culinary heritage. If you didn't have the terms, how would you distinguish between these two sub-cultures? What would you call them?

    America is a 'melting-pot' of different people, not a stew of similar people with slight differences.
    Because without the hyphen we'd never guess that Mr Liu has ancestors from China???? Why the need to distinguish? What purpose does it serve in the broad context of the public square? Why do some people insist on the hyphen while others don't? Does this insistence make us a stronger nation or a more splintered one? We can focus on differences all day long, but in the end we are either going to identify as Americans or fall as a bunch of hyphens.
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  16. #16
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    Re: Heritage - When To Drop The Hyphen?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ibelsd View Post
    Because without the hyphen we'd never guess that Mr Liu has ancestors from China???? Why the need to distinguish? What purpose does it serve in the broad context of the public square? Why do some people insist on the hyphen while others don't? Does this insistence make us a stronger nation or a more splintered one? We can focus on differences all day long, but in the end we are either going to identify as Americans or fall as a bunch of hyphens.
    Well, what words would you use to describe something that isn't wholly American and not wholly Chinese?

  17. #17
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    Re: Heritage - When To Drop The Hyphen?

    Quote Originally Posted by SharmaK View Post
    Well, what words would you use to describe something that isn't wholly American and not wholly Chinese?
    Didn't you just say that "It's not that they're not full Americans...."

    Either you are American or you're not.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by chadn737 View Post
    Didn't you just say that "It's not that they're not full Americans...."

    Either you are American or you're not.
    It depends what you're talking about. Legally, everyone born here or naturalized is an American, subject to American laws and taxes.

    When you are talking about culture though, there is a distinction. There are some things that are uniquely American (e.g. The hot dog) or uniquely Chinese (sweet and sour pork) but there are also Chinese dishes (i.e. dishes invented by Chinese immigrants) such as Egg Foo Young, that are created here: a fusion of Chinese with American influences.

  19. #19
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    Re: Heritage - When To Drop The Hyphen?

    Quote Originally Posted by SharmaK View Post
    It depends what you're talking about. Legally, everyone born here or naturalized is an American, subject to American laws and taxes.

    When you are talking about culture though, there is a distinction. There are some things that are uniquely American (e.g. The hot dog) or uniquely Chinese (sweet and sour pork) but there are also Chinese dishes (i.e. dishes invented by Chinese immigrants) such as Egg Foo Young, that are created here: a fusion of Chinese with American influences.
    So because of culinary preferences there is cause for racial division and a "us vs them" attitude? Should vegetarians start calling themselves Vegetarian-Americans?

  20. #20
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    Re: Heritage - When To Drop The Hyphen?

    Quote Originally Posted by chadn737 View Post
    So because of culinary preferences there is cause for racial division and a "us vs them" attitude? Should vegetarians start calling themselves Vegetarian-Americans?
    I just don't see it as "us vs them" - they're just factual descriptions. And by culture, I mean language, literature, history as well as food.

    So what term would you use instead to describe such a situation?

 

 
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